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Freedom Without Anarchy?

(by Sam Pestes)

Do you know why the pre-Sinai saints didn’t need a written code to keep them straight? Jesus answered this question in the parable of The Good Samaritan.

A traveler on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho was accosted by thieves, and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, whose life passion was to promote the 10 commandments, saw him lying in the ditch, and no doubt debated whether they should assist him or not.

What does the law require? They pondered. The 1st, 2nd 3rd and 4th commandments spoke only of man’s relationship to the Creator, and as such seemed to have no bearing on the situation. The 5th related specifically to parents and children. The 6th forbade murder, so that did not apply since they did the man no harm. The remaining four did not seem to apply, so they went on their way "in the service of the King".

Which of the 10 commandments did they violate? If their behavior were tested in a court of law it would not have required a very sharp lawyer to get them acquitted on all counts. Judged by the code of the law alone, they would have been acquitted. But, you protest: "They certainly neglected the spirit of the law!"

That was exactly the point Jesus made when He told that parable! God’s "law of the Spirit", by which His people were ruled from Adam to Moses, was not a written code! It was a way of life marinated in love, and planted in the heart by the Holy Spirit! The 10-commandment law, which God later gave to an immature and rebellious people, was specifically designed as a first step in introducing a nation of slaves to the principles of social justice and godliness. The 10 commandments were simply extracts taken from the law of the Spirit, and simplified as an introduction to God’s eternal law. God’s law of love reaches out far beyond the narrow parameters of the law on stone.

As in pre-Sinai times, The Holy Spirit speaks to every man’s conscience, whether there is a written law or not. Romans 2:12-15. The law of the Spirit does not negate the 10 commandments, but amplifies them beyond man’s capacity to perform. That is why we need a Savior. The legalistic mind cannot understand serving God purely from love. The legalistic mind is ready to do anything not strictly forbidden by law. Legalism and anarchy are twins. Freedom from the written code separates those who serve God from the heart, from those who serve only for fear of punishment. Is our cup clean on the inside, or is it only polished on the outside? Law deals with performance, not motives.

The only laws that result in transformation are those that are planted in the heart, not merely in the head. Law, that is applied externally, is necessary for safety in a godless society, but even though it can demand conformity, as it did in Israel, it cannot change the heart. Compliance with law, when motivated by fear of consequences, can change nothing but outward behavior. Only the Holy Spirit can change the motives of the heart.

What about the Sabbath commandment? Let’s first look at the Sinai law.

Were the Sinai Covenant and the 10-commandments inseparable?

Yes, the Old Testament writers all considered the law on stone and the Sinai (Old) Covenant as inseparable and part of the same package. Let’s read!

Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the ten commandments. Exodus 34:28

Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the ten commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. Deuteronomy 4: 12,13.

King David, writing in 2Chronicles chapter 6 and verse 11 said,

There I have placed the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with the people of Israel.

King Solomon also understood that the 10 commandments, which were placed inside the ark, were in essence, the covenant. Without the law there could be no Old Covenant!

I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with our fathers when he brought them out of Egypt. 1 Kings 8:21.

Some of us, because of our western style of thinking, would argue that "the covenant" and "the law" could not be the same thing, because "covenant" refers to a contract, while "the law" refers to a set of conditions on which the contract is based. That was not God’s definition. The stone tablets were known as the tablets of the covenant.

When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord had made with you… At the end of forty days and forty nights, the Lord gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant…and the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands. Deut. 9:9-15.

Hebrews 9:4 also says that the tablets of stone contained the covenant. It was identical with the "ministration of death" (the law) that Christ nailed to His cross. 2Cor. 3:7. In verses 14-16, we are warned that so long as we remain enamoured with the Sinai Covenant that was written on stone, "the same veil (that blinded the Jews) remains when the old covenant is read…Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away…"

What prevents people, who are focused on the law that Christ nailed to the cross, from letting go and growing into maturity, is fear of the unknown! That is what blinded the Jews who condemned Christ in the name of the law. When Christ told the man He had just healed, to carry his bed away on the Sabbath, and when He and His disciples picked corn on the Sabbath (both acts were strictly forbidden under the Mosaic Covenant), He was trying to give the Jews a message that the Sabbath of the 4th commandment was only an elementary introduction to God’s true Rest, the Sabbath of creation. Let us see what the Bible says on this most fascinating subject.

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